Plain packaging for tobacco could lead to a tidal wave of legislation affecting other categories and leaving customers confused about quality and origin of products, according to lawyers for Mars.

by Ed Chadwick

The confectioner – which also owns Uncle Ben’s, Dolmio and a number of pet care brands – told the government that it feared packaging legislation for cigarettes would give the government the green light to regulate manufacturers of other products.

It said that not only would brand names face being demoted to plain type, but distinctive colours and shapes could also disappear from shelves.

These, said Mars, help to protect consumers by making sure that they can identify products as coming from a quality manufacturer and lead to an increase in counterfeiting.

It pointed to the particular shade of orange it uses on its Uncle Ben’s range and the shape of its Bounty bars as examples of the way customers can instantly recognise its products.

The concerns were raised in Mars’s response to the government’s 2012 consultation on plain tobacco packaging, which the prime minister initially shelved.

Plain packaging in the tobacco industry would also set a key precedent for the application of similar legislation to other industries, including the food and non-alcoholic beverage industries in which Mars operates

The response states: “Mars is concerned that the introduction of mandatory plain packaging in the tobacco industry would also set a key precedent for the application of similar legislation to other industries, including the food and non-alcoholic beverage industries in which Mars operates.”

Mars also warned that brand owners would have to be compensated for the “overwhelming value of trademarks” if they could no longer be used.

When contacted by RN this week, Mars said it could not confirm whether it was planning to respond to the current consultation, which ends on 7 August.

Several other FMCG companies issued no comment when asked if they would respond to the consultation.

The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association last week called on retailers to sign a petition and recreate the wave of opposition which saw 64% of respondents oppose proposals.

To read the Mars consultation response click here